The Mets put all of their offensive shortcomings on full display Thursday afternoon, culminating in a blameworthy club record, and yet still walked away with a comfortable victory.
Despite leaving a franchise record seventeen runners on base, the Mets got outstanding pitching from Taijuan Walker and drew three walks with the bases loaded to split the series with a 4-1 victory in St. Louis. The seventeen runners left on base in a nine-inning game stood one shy of a National League record set in 1897 by the Boston Beaneaters. The Mets continued their woeful hitting with runners in scoring position, going 3-for-12 as a team with only one of those hits driving in a single run. The Mets overall registered nine hits and eleven walks, and yet they only managed to score four runs, three from free passes by Cardinals pitching.
If not for the wackiness of the Mets’ offensive output, the headline would belong to Walker. After a fifteen-minute rain delay before the game even began, he returned to form by striking out his first three batters. After giving up a leadoff single to Nolan Arenado in the top of the second, Walker induced a ground ball set up perfectly for a double play, but Jonathan Villar’s errant throw to second put runners on first and third with no one out. And after a nice Villar stop at third to get the out at first and hold Arenado at third, a sacrifice fly by Harrison Bader opened the scoring for the Cardinals. Walker then struck out Andrew Knizner to limit the scoring to one run.
Two singles and a walk loaded the bases with one out for Dom Smith in the top of the third, but Smith struck out looking, and Kevin Pillar flew out to left on an impressive over-the-wall catch by Justin Williams to waste another prime run-scoring opportunity. Jeff McNeil had an opportunity to score from second on Alonso’s single earlier in the inning, but third base coach Gary Disarcina held him at third on the rocket hit, which was only the first time that would happen in this game.
When a Mets runner finally crossed the plate in the fifth inning, it was not of their own doing but from a string of walks from Cardinals starter John Gant that sent Pete Alonso home with the bases loaded. Reliever Kodi Whitley then walked James McCann to send Smith home and give the Mets a 2-1 lead. After a Walker strikeout, McNeil grounded out to end the inning, continuing the Mets’ 1-for-RISP and raising the number of runners left on base to eleven.
After another small rain delay, Walker resumed his effective work in the sixth inning and continued to impress. Rojas took a chance on Walker, sending him out in the seventh against the heart of the Cardinals order, and Walker rewarded his manager with another 1-2-3 inning. Walker finished the game with seven innings pitched, eight strikeouts, one hit allowed, and an unearned run, completely shutting down the Cardinals' offense. After Villar’s error in the second inning set up the only run allowed while he was on the mound, Walker retired eighteen consecutive St. Louis batters to end his start.
The Mets scored their third run on the Cardinals’ eleventh walk of the game in the top of the eighth, this time to Alonso with the bases loaded that allowed McNeil to score. In the next at-bat, Smith got the Mets’ third hit with a runner in scoring position, but the first to actually drive in a run, giving the Mets a 4-1 lead. The offense could not cash in any more runs, however, once again stranding the bases loaded with three more opportunities to score and bringing their left-on-base total to sixteen.
The most impressive hitter of the day was arguably Francisco Lindor, who reached base four times on three walks and—more importantly—registered his first hit in 26 at-bats with a ninth-inning single between first and second base. As expected, he represented the team’s seventeenth runner left on base.
Unlike the Cardinals’ pitching staff, Mets pitchers dominated, allowing only three hits and an unearned run while striking out ten and not walking a single batter. After Walker exited the game in the middle of the seventh, Trevor May induced a quick 1-2-3 inning, and Edwin Díaz closed the game in the ninth by getting Paul Goldschmidt and Arenado out with two runners on base.
The Mets head back to New York with a .500 record and virtually none of their biggest offensive questions answered. They start a three-game series with the Diamondbacks on Friday night, with David Peterson set to start against Zac Gallen at 7:10 PM EDT.
SB Nation GameThreads
Win Probability Added
Big Mets winner: Taijuan Walker, +32.5% WPA
Big Mets loser: Jeff McNeil, -7.1% WPA
Mets pitchers: +40.7% WPA
Mets hitters: +9.3% WPA
Teh aw3s0mest play: Jonathan Villar walk in the fifth inning
Teh sux0rest play: Jonathan Villar error in the second inning